Ludogorets reach Champions League after defender goes in goal – and brilliantly saves two penalties

There are fairy tale stories and there’s Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets, who have amazingly qualified for the group stages of the Champions League – all thanks to their heroic centre back Cosmin Moti:

With the scores level over two legs against Steaua Bucharest, the match went into extra time, where many tipped Ludogorets to be beaten, especially after their goalie was sent off.

But defender Moti grabbed the gloves and went in goal, and as the match went to penalties, he performed magic by brilliantly saving two spot kicks.

Cosmin Moti

The second of which crucially won the match, securing his team a place in the Champions League group stages with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

The saves were also worth about £30million in prize money, which will definitely help Ludogorets who are in the process of paying for a new stadium.

Great times.

Liverpool FC: Champions League group announced

Champions League group V

Liverpool will kick off their 2014-15 Champions League campaign by welcoming Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets Razgrad to Anfield on Tuesday September 16.  The Reds end a five-year absence from the elite European tournament with a home fixture against a team that they have never previously met competitively.

The Reds were pitted against the holders of the competition in Thursday’s draw in Monaco, and they’ll also face trips to Switzerland and Bulgaria.  Madrid, who claimed their 10th European Cup with victory over city rivals Atletico in Lisbon earlier this year, last locked horns with Liverpool back in the 2008-09 campaign.  The teams met at the last 16 stage and after Yossi Benayoun’s late header secured a famous 1-0 first-leg win at the Bernabeu, the Reds ran riot in the return at Anfield – powering to a 4-0 triumph in front of the Kop.  The only other competitive game between the teams came in the 1981 final in Paris when Alan Kennedy’s goal sealed a 1-0 win for Bob Paisley’s team.

Liverpool also have recent history with Basel after they were pitted against each other in the Champions League first group stage in 2002-03.  The first encounter ended in a 1-1 draw at Anfield, while the Reds came from three goals down at half-time to draw 3-3 at St-Jakob Park.  Basel have won the Swiss league title five times in a row.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have never faced Champions League newcomers Ludogorets Razgrad previously.  The Bulgarian title holders secured their place in the competition in incredible circumstances against Steaua Bucharest in the play-offs.  After trailing by a goal from the first leg in Romania, Wanderson netted a last-minute volley to force extra time in Razgrad.  However, they were reduced to 10 men when goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off in the 119th minute.  It meant centre-back Cosmin Moti was required to go in goal for the penalty shootout – and he emerged the hero, sensationally saving two spot kicks to ensure Ludogorets progressed 6-5 on penalties.

2014-15 Champions League fixtures

September 16 – Ludogorets Razgrad (H)
October 1 – FC Basel (A)
October 22 – Real Madrid (H)
November 4 – Real Madrid (A)
November 26 – Ludogorets Razgrad (A)
December 9 – FC Basel (H)

LFC: Reina joins Bayern Munich

Pepe Reina

Liverpool have confirmed Pepe Reina has completed a transfer to Bayern Munich.

The goalkeeper has signed a permanent deal with the German club, bringing his eight-year spell at Anfield to an end.

Reina moved to Merseyside from Villarreal in the summer of 2005 and made an immediate impact, helping the Reds achieve a club record 11 successive clean sheets in all competitions.

Indeed, his maiden season would end in glory as Liverpool defeated West Ham United on penalties in the FA Cup final in Cardiff, with the Spaniard saving three of the Hammers’ four spot kicks in the shoot-out.

In April 2007, Reina’s shut-out against Blackburn Rovers meant he’d kept 28 clean sheets in his first 50 league games – setting another club record.

His penalty-saving prowess was evident once again one month later as he helped the Reds edge out Chelsea in a dramatic Champions League semi-final victory at Anfield.

In 2008, Reina claimed the Barclays Golden Glove award for a third successive campaign, while in 2009-10 he was voted as Liverpool’s Player of the Season by supporters.

The 31-year-old added one further accolade to his collection, picking up a winners’ medal as the Reds beat Cardiff City in the Carling Cup final in February 2012.

In total, Reina made 394 appearances for the club before spending the 2013-14 season on loan at Italian side Napoli.

Everyone at Liverpool FC would like to wish Pepe all the best for the future.

Rickie Lambert fails with his first spot-kick for Liverpool

Rickie Lambert - photo

Rickie Lambert, the man who never missed a penalty for Southampton FC, failed with his first spot-kick for Liverpool last night.

The striker converted all 34 of his competitive spot-kicks during his remarkable five years at St Mary’s.  But he failed to score his first penalty for Liverpool when he saw his effort during last night’s 2-0 friendly win over AC Milan saved by Christian Abbiati.

The Reds still won 2-0 in Charlotte, America, with goals from Joe Allen and Suso.

Gerrard reveals England retirement

Steven Gerrard today announced his retirement from international football with England following a glittering 14 years of representing his country.

Steven Gerrard - England

The midfielder’s journey with the Three Lions took him to three World Cup tournaments – 2006, 2010 and, most recently, this summer – and three European Championships.

After a debut against Ukraine in 2000, a total of 114 caps were amassed in the white colours, including 38 appearances as captain, making the Huyton native the nation’s third most capped player of all time.

In recognition of the Liverpool skipper’s unflinching commitment to England, he will now continue his relationship with the Football Association through an ambassadorial role.

Explaining the decision, Gerrard said:

“I have enjoyed every minute of representing my country and it is a sad day for me knowing that I won’t pull on the England shirt again.  However, I do look forward to continuing my strong relationship with The FA and helping out in any way I can going forward.

“I’d like to firstly thank my family and friends for all their support throughout my England journey. I’d also like to thank everyone who has been part of my international career, from the England managers I’ve played under to the staff at the FA and, of course, all the players I’ve been fortunate to play alongside.  In particular, the supporters have been amazing, not least in Brazil when they got behind the team despite the disappointing results.

“I’d especially like to thank Roy [Hodgson], firstly for giving me the captaincy permanently when he took the job, making me the proudest man in the country and allowing me to fulfil my childhood dream.  He has been very understanding over the past few weeks and is a man I will always hold in the highest regard.

“This has been a very difficult decision, one of the toughest I’ve had to make in my career. I have agonised over this since coming back from Brazil and have spoken to family, friends and people close to me in the game before coming to this point.

“Most importantly, Brendan [Rodgers] has been fantastic and obviously I have to look after my body as much as possible to ensure I can give everything when I take to the field.  To ensure I can keep playing to a high level and giving everything to Liverpool Football Club, I believe this is the right decision and having Champions League football back at Anfield is another big factor in my decision.”

Hodgson, who coached Gerrard both at Anfield and at international level, paid a glowing tribute to the man that captained his England side since taking the reins in 2012:

“While I’m disappointed in the decision, I can entirely understand Steven’s situation and can have no complaints given the incredible service he has given to his country.  I must respect his wishes due to the discussions we have had and the amount of thought and consideration he himself has given it.

“He is an incredible man and a fantastic footballer who we have all been blessed to see in an England shirt so often. It is never by coincidence that people reach such a staggering figure as 114 caps, it is a mark of his wonderful talent allied to a huge drive and determination to live up to the highest standard.

“He is not only a player to bring crowds to their feet with moments of brilliance; he was a tremendous captain and an exceptional role model for everyone who was fortunate to come into contact with him.  We shall miss his leadership qualities as we look ahead to the qualification campaign with a youthful group of players. I wish him all the best in the future, although I know I can count on his continued support and influence as a helpful presence moving forward.”

Rickie Lambert to wear No.9 at LFC

New Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert has been handed the historic No.9 shirt at Anfield.

Rickie Lambert - LFC

The England international sealed a switch to his boyhood side at the beginning of June and kicked off pre-season preparations earlier this week.

Today it was confirmed that the 32-year-old will follow in the footsteps of illustrious names such as Robbie Fowler, Steve Heighway, Ian Rush and Ian St John in wearing the number.

Southampton FC Home Kit for 2014/2015 launched

Southampton Football Club today unveiled its 2014/15 home kit with a clear message: the stripes are back.

saintskit1

The past two seasons have seen the team play in what were effectively all-red shirts.However, Saints’ new board have decided to revert back to the more traditional look – something that many supporters had hoped for.  The club said: “The new strip celebrates Saints’ long and rich heritage with a design that is bespoke and unique to the club.”

Saints are producing the kit in-house this season, after their previous deal with adidas came to an early end.  The 2014/15 home strip will go on sale on Saturday 19th July, with the away kit to be revealed in the near future.

Adults’ home shirts will be priced at £50, with a long-sleeved version available at £55. Children’s shirts will be £40, with infants’ mini-kits priced £35.

The 2014/15 home strip will be available via the Saints Megastore, the Saints Store at WestQuay and the club’s online store:

Liverpool FC 2014-2015 Premier League fixtures

Liverpool will kick off their 2014-15 Barclays Premier League season with a home clash against Southampton at Anfield after the Reds’ fixtures for the new campaign were released today.

LFC 2014-2015 fixtures

Brendan Rodgers’ charges will then make successive away trips to reigning champions Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, while a journey to Stoke City awaits in their final match.

The first Merseyside derby of the season against Everton will take place at Anfield on Saturday September 27, with the return clash scheduled for February 7, 2015 at Goodison Park.

Chelsea visit L4 on November 8 and Liverpool host Arsenal on December 20, with the reverse fixtures on May 9 and April 4 respectively; City travel to Merseyside on February 28.

Our opening meeting with Manchester United is arranged for December 13 at Old Trafford, and Rodgers’ team will take on their rivals on home soil on March 21.

Please note that all match dates are subject to change for television coverage and European football commitments, with a definitive schedule to be compiled next week. The first round of broadcast selections will be made later this week.

Church of England releases World Cup prayers

2014-fifa-world-cup-logo-hd-wallpapers

The Church of England has released Prayers for the World Cup, including prayers for the England Team ahead of England’s first match against Italy.

The Prayers have been written by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt. Revd. Nick Baines, who originally penned them during the last football World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and has posted them on his blog.

In addition to prayers for those participating in the World Cup and those travelling to “join in the party” there is also a prayer for those for who “are simply not interested” by the competition.

Bishop Nick has also written two prayers for the England Team, written after the end of the last World Cup. The first of these “Oh God…” reflects the lived experience of many England football fans, whilst the second prayer is a light hearted take on a traditional prayer used by the Church of England  in June each year to mark Bishop Richard of Chichester in 1253.

Speaking ahead of the release of the prayers, Bishop Nick, a die-hard Liverpool fan, said:

“God is not partisan and there are bigger things to pray for around the world, not least in Iraq, Nigeria and Sudan to name but three.  At its heart prayer is about expressing our desires honestly and having our vision of God, the world and one another changed by our praying.  For the next few weeks at least the passions and hearts of millions of men, women and children around the world will be focused on Brazil, where I’m pretty sure there will be lots of prayers being offered up throughout the tournament.

I know some have suggested it might take too much of a miracle for England to win the World Cup; we constantly over-rate, over-hype and over-anticipate England performance and then indulge in a collective intemperate bloodletting against team and manager when they fail to deliver on the big stage.  My hope is that the World Cup would be a reminder of the joy of a nation coming together in a common cause  – something that in itself is worth celebrating.”

Prayer 1
A Prayer for the World Cup

Lord of all the nations, who played the cosmos into being, guide, guard and protect all who work or play in the World Cup.
May all find in this competition a source of celebration, an experience of common humanity and a growing attitude of generous sportsmanship to others.
Amen.

Prayer 2
A Prayer for Brazil

God of the nations, who has always called his people to be a blessing for the world, bless all who take part in the World Cup.
Smile on Brazil in her hosting,
on the nations represented in competition and on those who travel to join in the party.
Amen.

Prayer 3
A prayer for those simply not interested

Lord, as all around are gripped with World Cup fever, bless us with understanding, strengthen us with patience and grant us the gift of sympathy if needed.
Amen.

Prayer 4
Prayers  for the England Football team

“Oh God…”

Prayer 5

“God, who played the cosmos into being, please help England rediscover their legs, their eyes and their hunger: that they might run more clearly, pass more nearly and enjoy the game more dearly. Amen.”

Sturridge scored a stunner for England

England v Montenegro - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

Daniel Sturridge scored a stunning goal as England recorded a 3-0 friendly victory over Peru at Wembley on Friday night.

The Liverpool striker curled home the opener just after the half-hour mark, collecting a throw in from Anfield teammate Glen Johnson before skipping inside and clipping into the top corner over goalkeeper, Raul Fernandez:

The Reds duo were joined in the starting XI by Steven Gerrard, who skippered the team, and Jordan Henderson. Raheem Sterling, meanwhile, was introduced into the action as a second-half substitute.

Centre-backs Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka were England’s other scorers.

Afterwards, Sturridge said:

“It is not important about myself, it is about the team and our preparation; putting in a shift tactically and technically to be in the best shape for the first game.  It was difficult to be fair because they defended well and they were very compact.  We had worked very hard throughout the week and there wasn’t the match sharpness as much as we would have liked.  But it was great to be out there and we are happy with the result.”

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Liverpool FC: Rickie Lambert fee agreed

Rickie Lambert

Rickie Lambert, preparing for Friday night’s England first pre-World Cup friendly with Peru, is on the brink of signing for Liverpool in a deal worth £4m plus add-ons, with the striker understood to be desperate to join his hometown team, who rejected him as a 15-year-old.

Rickie Lambert is expected to undergo a medical at Liverpool on Saturday after an initial £4m fee was agreed with Southampton.  The Reds had a bid accepted for the 32-year-old and personal terms have been agreed.

Lambert, a lifelong Liverpool fan, was born and raised in Kirkby and was with Liverpool’s Academy from the age of ten, before director Steve Heighway told him, at the age of 15, that he would not make the grade. “I never hold any grudges. These things either make or break you,” Lambert reflected recently. “At the time he (Heighway)was quite right to let me go. I wasn’t good enough. I thought it was the end of the world.” After three subsequent appearances for Blackpool, Lambert was released in 2000 by then manager Steve McMahon.

The centre-forward, who is in England’s squad for this summer’s World Cup, scored 14 times last season for the Saints, who paid Bristol Rovers £1m for the player’s services in August 2009.

Since then he has become an established Premier League striker and scored on his England debut, notching with his first touch in international football after coming on as a substitute against Scotland in August 2013.

A powerful and strong player, Lambert is also a free-kick specialist and has an exceptional penalty record, having scored his past 34 spot-kicks and having never missed for Southampton.

In Lambert, the Reds would be getting a player who will be an excellent back-up to Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge and he will see the move as a dream come true, being a boyhood fan and Liverpool-born, like Robbie Fowler returning to Anfield in 2006.

Lambert is a player who will add experience, professionalism and desire to the squad – a player with an excellent attitude, which will endear him to manager Brendan Rodgers. He’ll also add much-needed depth up front.  Attitude and the correct mentality are constantly mentioned by Rodgers and have become synonymous with Liverpool lately under the manger’s transformation of the club. Those attributes are what Lambert will also bring to the club.

He certainly offers more options from the bench than Rodgers has had in the past 12 months, and at that price would be a good buy for the club.  When Man United signed Teddy Sheringham in 1997, aged 31, it proved to be a superb move, and Lambert’s could be likewise for Liverpool.